Be warned, it’s not a pretty sight.
I have three medications I take on a daily basis for bipolar disorder. I’ve been on this particular combination for the past ten years, and I’ll have to take them for the foreseeable future.
Even missing one day affects me negatively. I get sweaty and anxious along with having little episodes I call “brain zaps,” which consist of an uncomfortable feeling in my head like an electric current buzzing through it. On the rare occasion, I forget to take my medicine, the brain zaps will be my first reminder.
There have been times in my past life where I’ve decided to stop taking some or all of my medications because of cost. I’ve also stopped one of them because I felt so stable I thought I was better and didn’t need it anymore. I guess it didn’t occur to me that the reason I felt so stable was entirely because of the medication, and I figured the other ones I took would pick up the slack for the one I subtracted.
Things were okay for a couple of weeks (minus the occasional brain zap). I was functional and moderately happy, so I believed I passed the withdrawal stage with flying colors. I didn’t know the medication gets stored in your brain and doesn’t truly run out for several days after you stop. I was too busy thinking of all the money I’d save. That particular prescription costs $100 per month, which I decided was not in my budget.
Visiting The “Bad Place” Again
Without the medication, anxiety crept up on me every morning. Not just nervousness about the day ahead, but full-blown shocking anxiety that often turned into a blistering panic attack. It happened even when things were going well in my life and I had nothing to be anxious about.
Instead of going to work or cleaning the house, I spent my days wrapped up in a blanket with tears pouring down my face and no idea why I was crying so hard. I worried obsessively about my children even though they were perfectly fine. I felt like the world’s biggest failure for not being able to do things any “normal” person would do.
My mind played tricks on me. It told me I was a terrible person who was an emotional vampire sucking the life right out of people. It told me my children did not need a mother like me. In fact, they would all be better off and much happier without me. I felt like there was nobody in the world who cared about me as a friend or as family.
One step later, I was contemplating suicide in an effort to escape my pain and the pain I was sure I was causing everybody else. As the plan formed in my mind, I suddenly remembered the medication I’d stopped two weeks earlier. Could there be a correlation?
Fortunately, I still had a prescription in my purse. I took it to the pharmacy and paid my hundred dollars, and nearly 24 hours later I felt like a new person. My emotions became more stable, and I could do my regular activities again.
I Can’t Afford Not To Take My Meds
Medication saved my life when my bipolar first reared its ugly head in my 30’s. I have no reason to doubt that now, and I believe taking them is my responsibility. If I’m not stable, it affects everyone around me, including my children who may not understand the full extent of my mental illness. My medicine needs to be the first thing I pay for above everything else or else the world I’ve created and the strides I’ve made will come crashing down like an imploding building.
I’ve seen news stories lately about Kanye West. From what I can tell, he stopped his bipolar medication last year, restarted it and now has stopped it again. Twitter is full of his latest rants, both grandiose and uninformed ramblings that seem to make no sense to anyone but him. He says he stopped taking his medicine because it was affecting him creatively, keeping him from being able to write music the way he wants.
Knowing what it’s like to be off my psych meds, I can only imagine what his family is going through, especially his children, and what he will go through as his illness becomes worse. I also don’t buy the “creativity” excuse. I’m a writer and staying stable is what gets me to the computer to be able to write in the first place.
I don’t feel like I’m stumped or blocked creatively because of my medication. In fact, if anything my words make a lot more sense to others when my mind isn’t racing and battling itself. Medication allows me to set goals and reach them without quitting and beating myself up.
I believe we’re so lucky to have better medication to treat mental illness and promising new drugs are on the horizon. When I was an anxious child in the ’70s, there wasn’t anything to treat my symptoms, and therapy was only for really “crazy” people. Times have changed and hopefully, some of the stigma has been erased. I’m not embarrassed to say that I take medication. I may have felt that way at first when I was younger, but the help the pills have given me far outweighs any shame I might bring to the table.
I never want to go back to sobbing and screaming and feeling like a piece of human garbage like I do when the depression part of my bipolar kicks in. I don’t want to be manic and blow money and make dangerous decisions either. Medication has given me my life back, and I’ll never intentionally stop taking it again. It doesn’t make me something I’m not but opens up the world for me to take part in as a contributing member of society.
I couldn’t ask for anything more.